FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 8TH NOVEMBER, 2003
ARSENAL 2 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1)
Referee:- Mark Halsey
Arsenal (4-4-2):- Lehmann; Lauren (sub Cygan, 61), Toure, Campbell, Cole; Ljungberg, Parlour (capt.), Gilberto (sub Bergkamp, 61), Pires; Kanu (sub Edu, 82), Henry
Subs not used:- Stack; Hoyte
Spurs (4-4-2):- Keller; Carr (capt.), Richards, Gardner, Taricco; Anderton, King, Dalmat (sub Ricketts, 81), Konchesky (sub Mabizela, 72); Postiga (sub Zamora, 81), Keane
Subs not used:- Burch; Doherty
Booked:- Konchesky, Anderton, Richards, Taricco
Spurs fans can hold their heads up high tonight. After Darren Anderton had given Spurs a fifth minute lead, we were in dreamland for just over an hour, as Spurs defended magnificently, and in fact had very good chances to increase their lead at half-time. In the end, even Arsene Wenger admitted that his team were lucky, as Spurs succumbed to an equaliser created by Henry, seemingly offside when he started his run, and finally when Ljungberg's 79th minute shot was cruelly deflected off Stephen Carr to loop into the back of the net.
Spurs deserve full marks for effort, and if only they had been able to demonstrate quality at crucial times, they would have had the home side killed off by the interval. Helder Postiga, who started in preference to Zamora, had two excellent one on one chances, after being fed by poor back passes from Lauren, who was eventually replaced by Cygan, allowing Toure to take up the right back slot. There were times when Konchesky had good chances to score or at least set up a colleague, but his final efforts were lacking precision.
Of course it will sound like sour grapes to anyone who is not a Spurs reader, but it did seem like we were playing against 12 men today, as referee Mark Halsey gave free kicks for the slightest contact, or even no contact in the face of Mr Pires' acrobatic ability. Konchesky was booked for jumping the wall for an Henry free kick that was then moved 10 yards closer to goal, but still a missed opportunity. Anderton got booked for turning his back on the ball, having the audacity to allow the opponent to run into him. In the end, it was always going to be a long, long time to hold onto that slender lead, but did we enjoy it, as the home fans were silenced, and the away support had gloating rights for those 64 minutes.
Postiga had been given a half-chance from a Keane ball even before Spurs took the lead, but with only 4 minutes gone, Ledley King battled his way through the midfield, and fed Robbie Keane. Lauren's attempted clearance was returned across the area by Keane, past Postiga, and Anderton was there to direct the ball to the left of Lehmann into the net in front of the ecstatic away support! Anderton had started on the right today, and Dalmat took up position beside Ledley, with Konchesky on the left. Anderton had a good game today, and it was re-assuring that youth was winning overall, with no sign of Gus Poyet - even on the bench.
Keller was soon called into action to divert an Henry shot wide for a corner, and then Henry again beat Carr, before sending a low shot across Keller's path, which the keeper got a touch to to give another corner. Parlour had been the first in Halsey's book for a late challenge on Taricco, but the referee soon started on Spurs, as Konchesky's infringement preceded the blocking of Henry's free kick. When the kick was re-taken, it landed behind the goal on the net. On the quarter-hour, some nice inter-play from Keane and Postiga, ended with a Postiga left foot shot wide of the target. This was not the Spurs that lost at home last week to Bolton, and clearly everyone in white knew how important the game was to their loyal fans.
Postiga's first one on one chance came mid-way through the first half, as he latched onto Lauren's weak back-pass, should have scored, but allowed the keeper to block his shot. Henry went down injured, and although it looked as if he was off the pitch, Arsenal stopped the game, before the referee. Henry was soon involved in a challenge with Keller, who had raced outside his area, and the two were in collision. The referee allowed play to continue, and I understand Henry may have been offside anyway.
There was a melee across the Spurs area, with Taricco chiefly involved after Pires seemed to fly after no contact from Carr. A free kick was given though, although it came to nought after Halsey settled for "words" with Taricco and Pires. With just over 5 minutes to go before the break, Postiga failed to capitalise yet again, as Lauren passed back feebly, and this time Helder allowed the keeper to save with his outstretched leg. Taricco won a free kick on the right and Anderton's kick was way beyond any of his team-mates. Then at the other end, Kanu hit a shot from outside the area just wide of Keller's goal.
Postiga could have scored just before the break, after great work from Anderton, riding a tackle down the right and beating Toure with the ball, which Postiga just failed to reach. Soon after the break, Dalmat started a good move, threading the ball to Ledley who hit a cross/shot close to Lehmann, who picked up with close attention from the Spurs attack Pires had one free kick cleared for a corner before Halsey found a reason for another kick to Arsenal, which Gilberto headed over. It came as no surprise when Gilberto was substituted, as any shots he had were very wayward, and he clearly missed having Vieira beside him.
Konchesky got through from the left, and had a great shooting chance. Instead he chose to try and feed Anderton on his left, but the ball was poor and ran out of play. Wenger made his first substitutions, and it has to be said that once Bergkamp was on, and Toure replaced Lauren at right back, the home side looked more composed, and more of a threat. Sadly, that was translated into an equalising goal in the 69th minute. I felt that Henry was well offside 40 yards out, when he chased and retrieved a long clearance, leaving most of the defence behind him, hitting a shot from a sharp angle at Keller, who could only parry the ball out to the advancing Pires who had an easy finish.
Konchesky's last contribution was a useful shot but wide, before Mabizela got a taste of the full-blooded Derby feeling. Spurs were not making much headway now though, and Robbie Keane's form was demonstrated by his poor pass to Carr, which went into touch. With just over 10 minutes left, it was same old "Lucky Arsenal" as Ljungberg was allowed too much space cutting in from the left. Stephen Carr was tracking his run, but was unlucky to see the shot deflected so that it looped into the net beyond the reach of Keller.
Whereas Spurs fans had been taunting the home crowd with "Champions League? You're having a laugh!", it was the hosts who had the last laugh with their response of "Beat the Arsenal? You're having a laugh!"
The chasm between the two clubs opened to 18 points after 12 games, and with Spurs only 4 points above the bottom, the spirit seen today must be translated to results, starting with the Villa game on November 23rd.
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· Brian Judson's Preview for this game can still be read here